Space

Maybe my heart is so heavy

Because it’s still so full

Of you

So do I tip you out

To make room for the ones to come

Or do I keep you there

To jostle with the rest

Elbows and ankles fighting

For the space

You so badly wanted

And got, like you always do

I would smile at the irony

In this battle

You will eventually lose

But it would make no difference

You didn’t care then

You don’t care now

Some things are destined, darling

Never to change

 

-Gautami.

Senses

I suppose there’s something

About our five senses

Holding onto memory

With something stronger

Than fickle minds

Nostalgia hidden bone deep

Coming to surface once more

Catching you unawares

Like the riptide snatching

At unsteady feet,

Pulling you away.

 

I say I’ve moved on

It is in the iron you wrought

In a delicate soul

It is in the relative steadiness

Of a once stuttering heart

In the way I don’t jump

To answer your calls anymore

In the way I can laugh, without

The weight that was crushing

My lungs, your love clogging

My very veins

It is in my perpetual fear

Of being the one left behind

 

But my senses are treacherous

Because they have weaved

Sight, sound, smell

Inextricably in memories of you

So much so that

You’re in the tunes

Of a man singing about

People falling in love

In mysterious ways

And the dance we never had

To the same song

You’re in the album art

In the posters splashed

Across your wall

 

You’re in the smell of strawberries

In the cream I’d put on

For you

You’re in the scald

Of coffee, drunk too fast

As you sat on my sofa

You’re in the wind tangling

In my hair, snatching

Bubbling laughter from my lips

And the warmth of a hug

Under the light of the cars

Whizzing by, and the stars

Dotting the night

You’re in our laughter

As your shirt hung off my skin,

Still warm under your touch

You’re in the sound

Of motorcycle engines revving

And the smell of hot butter

On cooking kebabs

 

Most days, you’re lost

In the shelf of my mind

Where I lock away things of the past

That made me bleed, once

That have faded to distant aches, now

But on some days

The wind blows back the smoke

Into my breath

And with it, you

And you come alive to me

Once more, reopening old scars

Just a bit

 

But nostalgia cannot reignite

Flames long stamped out

In repeated mistakes and warm tears

And the mist of the dawn

Fades away under the light

Of a burning sun

So, my love, do you disappear

The way you did so many times

Until all that lingers

Is the ghost of things long gone,

Once loved, long lost.

 

-Gautami.

Note to self

Do we ever truly stop loving someone?

Or do we just learn

Do we just teach ourselves

To forget and let go

Childish fingers unclasping

Around the string of a balloon

Letting it fly away

 

Because memories will fade

Like the henna disappearing

From the hands of a bride

Left at the altar, but

Your words will remain

Long after your promises

Crumble like pillars of sand

Under the weight of reality

 

You said

When your lips first touched mine

It felt a lot like home

Words, words, words

In a tidal wave

Of what looked a lot like love

 

But homes can be left behind

Along with baggage dumped

At airport terminals

At unsaid goodbyes

And on the virgin lips

Of your lover’s first kiss

Addictions can be broken

And jigsaws destroyed

People can be reduced

To ghosts that will dissipate

In your memory,

Never looking back

 

Loose ends can be snipped away

As if they never were

Until our story is reduced

To a page, nay

A few words

In your book

Echoes that will never

Ring again

 

I thought our hearts

Beat in tandem,

But the truth was, my love

Yours was always a beat ahead

Leaving me behind

From the very start

There’s only so far you can run

Before your feet give up

Absence does not make the heart

Grow fonder

It merely glosses over the bad

Making you long for the good

But the two are intertwined

The way our fingers used to be

 

So while you long

For things long past,

Forget not that mistakes

Tend to repeat themselves

And everything you ever cared for

Can cut you like the broken pieces

Of your grandmother’s crystal

And the slash of careless words

Burning permanent scars

Remember, wilted roses of yesterday

Do not carry tomorrow’s perfume

 

-Gautami.

 

 

 

Letters from my ex

I saw you in the supermarket today

Safely hidden from your sight

By a pile of soap on display

Not the brand you buy

I saw you pick up

The cheese I used to like

For my breakfast

And put it down, like hot coal

And I knew then

That you still thought of me

When your brain was

On autopilot

When you heard our song

And smiled that sad little smile

Writ with regret and memory

When lying in your lover’s arms

Your body still adjusting

To a warmth that isn’t familiar

Not the way it used to be

 

I know this

Because I do it too

When my lover kisses me

It is foreign and new

And pushes me off kilter

Thinking of you

I still pick up eggs on the way home

And my lover is a vegetarian

When my mind wanders

It wonders if you sometimes

Think of me

When you can’t sleep

At 2:56 am, restless

When you water the plants

We planted together

When you see the little pieces of us

Still standing in the universe

Even though we fell apart

 

When did we get so afraid

Of love

Of life

Of everything in between

When did we start fearing

Endings so much

That we ran away from

Every chance to begin

That we tasted the bitter ashes

Of failure and finality

Before we could sip from

The honey of hope

When did we get so jaded

That we were so sure

Things wouldn’t work

That we never even tried

Greys colouring over blooming hues

Refusing to believe in good

 

And I want to tell you

That I’m sorry

For never giving us a chance

For dooming everything

Before it could ever start

And crushing fresh buds

Under the heel of my stubborn belief

My love, you deserved better

Than another heartbreak

But perhaps the universe

Works in its own ways

You look up and catch my eye

And a brief smile is all we share

Before you pick up a brand of cheese

I do not recognise

And I pick up the tofu

You would never eat

And we walk away,

To return to new homes, new arms

 

All I can do now

Is hope you are happy

Because I think I am

There’s this soft contentment

Replacing the numb exhaustion

That lay in the wake of my bitter anger

I am learning

To let the past lie

To look forward instead of back

All the things you tried to teach me

That I was too stubborn to learn then

Are healing me now

And I pray you haven’t forgotten

How to hope and love

Though I might have taught you to

Distrust hope and shun it

Because dreams and disappointment

Were two sides of a coin

Too easy to flip

 

And we were both right,

Just on two polar ends

Refusing to budge, refusing to see

Any middle ground

That now paves the path

I walk on

Littered with lessons from

Past mistakes

Perhaps one day

I will see you on it

And we will smile at

Our previous selves,

Fighting in futility

While we will walk on

Together or otherwise

To learn from fresh mistakes

Until our destinies pull us apart again.

 

-Gautami.

Sometimes, home has a heartbeat.

Every bird must fly its nest

It is the rule of nature

Once old enough,

Every little fledgling

Must stretch unsteady wings

And fly away

To fend for itself

 

But umbilical cords

People refuse to cut

Too often wrap themselves

As nooses around

Their children’s dreams

Leashes to hold

Precious offspring in their backyards

Stopping them from running

Bright-eyed, following their fantasies

 

My mother let her children

Seek their own fortunes

Make their own choices,

Pull the strings

To their own puppet shows

Mould their futures

Like the play doh childish fingers

Would fiddle with

 

Now, as foreign roads

Stretch themselves out before me

Like the lines crisscrossing

My mother’s palm

And I taste home

In the spices of food

A thousand miles away

Alleyways behind weathered churches

Reminiscent of the streets

Behind my school

The smell of hot tea

Transporting me to serene evenings

A book in my hand

And a familiar smile

On a weathered face

 

And I know

When the weight of homesickness

Becomes too heavy

For my heart to bear

There’s a light burning for me

Somewhere beyond these

Neverending miles

A beacon beckoning

Her ship to shore

Waiting to grasp my hands

With palms roughened by years

Of washing clothes and dishes

Of bandaging wounds and

Untangling a million little messes

Home, shifting through time

Through the boundaries of states

Winding up, always

In the rest of a tired head

On a familiar knee.

 

– Gautami.

To the woman who makes a million little sacrifices in a heartbeat for us everyday, who has suffered and emerged stronger than ever. To the woman who has made us everything we are and ever will be; teacher, guiding light. Happy birthday, Amma. We love you.

 

Pixels

We humans

Are funny little creatures

Aching to capture

Our lives, one way or another

Freezing time and people

In the gloss of photographs

And pixels on a screen

 

Living in the present

But caught up in the past

With fingers itching

To scroll back

To old conversations,

Old pictures

You and me, in stasis

Our every syllable locked

In that safe corner of time

Where no one can touch it

Until I press delete

And obliterate our words

In the whirring gears

Inside my phone

 

There’s something about humans

Making us take pictures

Of things that we love

Places, people, things

Tucking them away,

Saving them in some concrete way

So we can go back

To them, time and again

 

And it takes me back

To you and me,

And our tally of pictures together:

Zero.

Promises between meetings

And partings

Never coming to fruition

Next time.

Until next time ceased

To come around

And was swept away

In your absence

And my giving up on you

 

Some love stories

They say

Are written in the stars

Burning in the high heavens

Beautiful, unattainable.

I suppose ours was writ

In the dirt tracks

Of quiet mistakes

And the all consuming guilt

Of things said and done

 

They say

Pictures speak

A thousand words

Perhaps, my love

The absence of any

Speaks a million more.

 

-Gautami

Runaway

The sky was black

Like the coffee I drank

Every sleepy morning

Like the worn shawl

Your mother draped herself in

When she took down sun-dried clothes

In chilly evenings

The light was melting gold

Like the dull glow

Nestled in my mother’s ears

And jingling around her wrists

The circle around my father’s

Thickened fingers, gripping

This morning’s newspaper

 

I was a bundle of fear

And repressed excitement

Drumming its way through

The hasty throb in my wrist

In the restless tap

Of my fingers against my thigh

Waiting as the silver hand

Ticked its way across

My watch’s dial,

Tick

Tock

Too slow, too fast

 

The night was black

Like the look on my father’s face

When he saw you hold my hand

That one evening when you

Dropped me home

Like the growing storm

When he saw me talking

On the phone, at 3 am

Like his words, telling me

I could never see you again

The light was gold

Like your voice

Telling me to get away

To pack my things,

And unpack my dreams,

And shake them out in the sunlight

When we ran from it all

 

You were late

And panic was crawling

Up the walls of my throat

Little voices in my ear

Whispering that you were

Not going to come,

That I was a fool

Young, naive, in love

Expecting a knight in shining armour

To carry me away

That I should turn back

And go back home

 

The night was black

Like the despair creeping

Into my heart

Like the light fizzling

Out of eager eyes,

Like the steady drip

Of disappointment

Scratching over rosy dreams

Like the leaky pen

I would write with

Back in school

The night was black

Like the silhouette

Walking up to me

The light was gold

Like your skin

Glowing, blazing in the lamplight

Like the smile burning

Across my cheeks,

Mirrored in your face

In the sudden taste of freedom

Writ in the curve of my lips

And the touch of your fingertips

Pulling me to run, run

Free.

 

The night was black

The colour of knowledge

Like your Abba’s wrath

The next morning

My Amma’s despair

As she stroked

My pillowcase, still smooth

From no restless head

Rumpling freshly made sheets

Her sorrow mingled, perhaps

With some grey understanding

And the quiet satisfaction

That her daughter had flown

What she could not

But the morning,

Oh, the morning was gold

Hope rising in the horizon

With a glowing, glorious sunrise

And the press of your fingers

Twined in mine

The rattle of the bus

Taking us away

To the place

Our young hearts believed

Dreams came true.

 

-Gautami